Panasonic Officially Launches GH5

Panasonic today at CES took the wraps off the GH5, which was previously disclosed as being in development at Photokina 2016. 

bythom panasonic gh5

One curiousity. The Panasonic press conference lasted <tk> minutes. The GH5 took all of two minutes of that. Before we got to the camera, Panasonic had to talk about batteries, autos, convection ovens, Technics audio products, Denver, Disney, and more (yes, Denver and Disney). 

"Every single feature in [the GH5] was added after listening to customer feedback." 

The new GH5 is similar externally to the GH4, with a few tweaks. This allows the use of most GH4 accessories, such as cages, with the GH5. That said, you can see external differences if you look: the internal flash is now gone (though the body is now better weather sealed); the record video button has grown in size and taken a prominent spot up top behind the shutter release; there’s a joystick to control autofocus point; and some distinct shape and position differences are clearly evident. The body is now freezeproof (14°F) as well as splash and dustproof.

Internally is where you’ll find most of the changes. 

Not only do we have a new 20mp sensor, but the sensor now has 5-axis image stabilization behind it. As you might expect, there's 5Ghz Wi-Fi, with Bluetooth 4.2 LE connectivity. Interestingly, the GH5 is the first ILC camera I know of with a USB-C (3.1) port. The autofocus system is still depth-from-defocus (DFD), but with 225 areas now, with response to -4EV. The big change some will object to is the removal of the internal flash.

Video is where the GH4 shined, and it's where the GH5 shines, too. The 4K capabilities of the camera have been expanded to shoot 60P (though at 4:2:0 8-bit). The big news is that the GH5 can record 30P 4K at 4:2:2 10-bit internally onto an SD card. Or 180 fps at 4:2:0 8-bit and 1080P. That's one heck of a lot of data, and arguably the best spec we've seen from a still-camera-doing-video. It appears that not everything is done yet in firmware, though. Several of the highest end capabilities appear to need a firmware update in the near future to be active.

Thankfully Panasonic has moved on from the ugly and cumbersome DMW-YAGH Interface Unit. Instead we get a less expensive XLR audio interface unit that clips into the hot shoe. That's a little awkward, in that you'll be using up your only mount point for the XLR interface, and any microphone or radio receiver you use starts to get a little problematic in terms of where you'll mount it. Thus, you should probably be thinking "cage" if you're really going to start upgrading the camera with external units.

I'm sure you'll hear about 18mp stills at 30 fps, but this is a special burst shooting setting that relies on the video stream, and has limits on how it buffers. There's also 8mp stills at 30 or 60 fps. But normally, the camera is restricted to 12 fps shooting stills. Note that autofocus is limited to 9 fps.

Panasonic is walking that fine line between keeping the things that made/make a product great and giving it new and longer life into the future with the GH5. For the most part, they seem to have succeeded. No unnecessary reshaping the body, moving communication ports to new locations, and the other things that would have gotten the existing GH4 crowd worked up. I suppose a few will lament the passing of the internal flash, but it doesn’t strike me that many GH4 users were using that feature, let alone relying upon it. I’m a firm believer that light sources shouldn’t be small, low-powered, and anchored near the camera/subject axis anyway. 

The real question is whether the GH5 moved the internal video capabilities far enough to get the GH4 crowd to spring US$<tk> for the update. Without running a GH5 through its paces in production video, I’m not sure I can answer this question, or even predict the answer. It does seem like Panasonic has been paying attention to the details that the professional video crowd looks closely at, though. 

Thus, I suspect that those using the GH4 as a primary video camera will be impressed by the new version and think strongly about updating. Those using a GH4 as a B-roll camera might have a slightly different evaluation, however. It would really depend upon what their main camera was, whether the B-roll camera was mounted or handheld, and whether the GH5’s 4:2:2 internal recording matches up better with what they primarily shoot with.

Along with the GH5, Panasonic also introduced the GF9, the camera that sits pretty much at the opposite spectrum as the GH5 (e.g. low consumer versus high pro). <tk>

In addition, Panasonic launched four new versions of current lenses: 12-35mm f/2.8, 35-100mm f/2.8, 45-200mm f/4-5.6, and 100-300mm f/4-5.6. These updates were all minor, to the point of no real visual differences externally. A new lens, the 12-60mm f/2.8-4 was also launched.

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